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  1. #1
    Retired C.O. RandoneeRider's Avatar
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    Handlebar width & stem length (?)

    Okay, truth of the matter is..... I initially get a little TOO wrapped up in the details of my hobbies. My question is in regard to fitting my bike correctly:

    I've been to a guy who knows his stuff, he's good. But he's also busy making custom frames/bicycles, charging folks $85 to get fitted via one of those gizmos you bolt your own bike onto for rolling resistance. He's also got one of those $10,000 machines that uses a computer to get you fitted correctly for the custom bike he makes for ya.

    I walked in with my bike as instructed, my shorts on, helmet, gloves..... ready to give up the big bucks to be fitted to my new bike. INSTEAD, he said "... no charge, ride up to that telephone pole & back..." He then raised my seat so that my hips weren't rocking and told me to come back in a year when I've gained some flexibility, lost some weight, and ready to get fitted with the handlebars as low as they should be, and some of those clip-in pedal thingies.

    After a month and 300 miles on my new bike, I wonder:

    1) if my handlebars are too narrow for my broad shoulders.
    - and -
    2) if my stem is too long making me reach too far for my controls....

    One kid at a local bike store said that if from my seating/handlebar position, I can see the hub of my front wheel..... the stem is either too long or too short depending on whether the hub is seen from behind the handlebars or over/front of the handlebars. In other words, if the hub is blocked from my view by the handlebars, the stem length is correct.

    Keep in mind that I am a 240 pound 5' 1" adult on an XS (extra small) touring road bike. I've already had to change the (child's?) seat out for a better fit, but I wonder too if my handlebars are narrow for a child (my shoulders are VERY broad).

    A little help, ANYBODY???

  2. #2
    Retired C.O. RandoneeRider's Avatar
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    I got impatient and after watching a movie, got on-line to research answers to my own questions..... as follows:

    Stem length:
    "One indicator comes from glancing down at the front hub while riding in the drops; your view of the the front hub should be obstructed by the handlebar. LeMond recommends that your elbows, bent at 65-70∞ with your hands in the drops, should be within an inch or two of your knees at the top of your stroke.
    Measure your current bike's top tube and stem. Then, decide how you'd like to alter that fit; add the top tube length to the stem length to get your overall top dimension. The very reason we stock stems in 1cm increments, from 7cm to 14cm, is just to let you dial in your best top tube and stem length."
    "Place your elbow against the nose of your saddle and if your finger tips do not fit behind the handle bars as shown above, then your stem is probably too short. If the bars are more than 2cm. away from the finger tips your stem maybe too long.
    When I was racing I used a stem that placed my finger tips one centimeter from the bars; now as a mild concession to my aging body I’m using a stem a centimeter shorter. If you are wondering as I did for many years what the length of a persons forearm has to do with stem length? I will explain."
    "For this you really need a good sizing stem with the correct size handlebars. A sizing stem has an adjustable length for the top of the stem. You can usually get them from good pro shops. Every club and coach should have one and learn to use it. I still have mine.
    You want to adjust the length of the stem until you are comfortable with about a 30-degree bend in your elbows with your hands on the brake hoods (again, with the bones.)"
    "To check reach at home, put on your cycling clothes, mount your bike on a trainer and make sure the bike is level. Get on and pedal until you’re comfortable with your upper body relaxed. Look ahead as if you were looking down the road. For dropped handlebars, rest your hands on the tops of the brake levers. For flat bars with bar ends, use the regular grip position. Now, have a helper look at you from the side (photo) to gauge where a plumbline dropped from the tip of your nose would fall. Optimally, there should be about an inch between the plumb line and the center of the handlebar."

    Handlebar width:
    "Road handlebars come in several widths and bends. Most cyclists select a bar that is just as wide as their shoulders, measured as the distance between the shoulder joints. A wider bar opens the chest for better breathing and more leverage, but is less aerodynamic. You'll need to find your own balance between the two."
    "Check width first. For optimal control and efficiency, drop handlebars should be about the same width as your shoulders (photo). These bars come in sizes ranging from about 38- to 44-cm wide. So, if the distance between the bony protrusions on top of your shoulder blades is 42 cm, that’s what the handlebar width should be."

    Handlebar position:
    "I like to use an adjustable stem that my customers can use for a few days to try different positions for a long enough time to be meaningful. But what about a starting point? For riders with drop bars, if you place your hands down in the drops at the forward most position, (the point that allows you to easily reach the brake levers), then bend your elbows enough that your forearms are horizontal, your elbow would be at a ninety degree angle for a good starting point. From there, try moving the bar in one half inch increments forward and back to find the best reach for you. Most people are quite comfortable just with the ninety degree elbow position. But that doesn't mean it's right for you. And of course this isn't a position you'd want to spend much time riding in, except on the occasional banzai descent down a mountain pass!
    Racers generally end up with the handlebar height two to three inches below the saddle height, tourers will often like to have the bar at the same height as the saddle. Mountain bikers usually position the bar a couple of inches below the saddle. The important thing is to take enough time to find the best position for you. If that means setting up a touring bike with the handlebar four inches below the saddle height, so be it. I recommend the longest reach and lowest position you feel comfortable in, (with emphasis on comfortable)."

    Handlebar setup:
    "Cyclocross" Hoods, where hands most often ride, are higher than thier position on road bikes. Wide & flat on the top provide better slow speed balance and control off road.

  3. #3
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    I was just gonna "say".... there is a lot on the internet about bike fit... but I see you beat me to it!

    Personally, I tried wrenchscience.com a number of years back - mainly to discover that most of the bikes I had had - and some I still had - were mostly too big for me!

    That being said, if after 300 miles you do not have any physical complaints, I would not change too much. I, like you, got obsessed with "bike fit" - shelled out $$, measured lengths, measured angles, etc. and basically it boiled down to just plain common sense. (The difficulty for me was discerning whether injury irritation could be lessened by tweaking my fit on a bike.) Riding more.... feeling how my post ride body felt.... looking up particular pain problems, and tweaking the bike just a bit here and there, until I could ride longer with less pain.

    I've heard the "visibility of the hub" thing before - may be true but I would think it would depend on the bike geometry and rake of the fork, etc. (but maybe not!) If you find your steering unstable...or feel you are too far "out" over the front of the bike, I would think your stem is too short. If you have chronic wrist, arm or shoulder pain, perhaps your reach is too long - and therefore you might need a shorter stem. Your elbows should have a slight bend in them when your hands are placed on the top of the hoods, and you should be able to have your wrists comfortably in a "neutral" position (not flexed or extended).

    I think too there are bike fits for "comfort" and bike fits for "performance", and IMHO it's important to be comfortable first...then you can tweak for performance/efficiency, next.

    If you feel comfortable, in control and have no major physical complaints following your rides, your bike likely fits well.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    I love the smell of bicycle grease in the morning.
    I am not, associated, affiliated, nor in any way responsible for any of the creative and informative material, (and incredibly beautiful pictures) posted on the EcoVelo blog/website. (I chose my username before I was ever aware of the website).
    2010 Salsa Vaya, 2006 Cannondale Rush, 1992 Cannondale M1000, 1992 Trek 930, 1987 Bertoni Italimerica,
    1983 Centurion Accordo mixte

  4. #4
    Nigel nfmisso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecovelo View Post
    ........
    I think too there are bike fits for "comfort" and bike fits for "performance", and IMHO it's important to be comfortable first...then you can tweak for performance/efficiency, next.

    If you feel comfortable, in control and have no major physical complaints following your rides, your bike likely fits well.
    +1 most of the internet fits are for racing performance, not comfort/touring.
    Nigel
    Mechanical Design Engineer

  5. #5
    Retired C.O. RandoneeRider's Avatar
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    ecovelo suggests,
    "If you have chronic wrist, arm or shoulder pain, perhaps your reach is too long - and therefore you might need a shorter stem. Your elbows should have a slight bend in them when your hands are placed on the top of the hoods, and you should be able to have your wrists comfortably in a "neutral" position (not flexed or extended)".
    Late into the night and more this morning, I have since discovered that it is a common complaint that the Novara Randonee (as well as other Novara models) have really obtuse stem lengths..... "too long" & "difficult to change out"......

    As it turns out, my biggest complaint is wrist discomfort, straight arm strain taxing my triceps, uncomfortable hand position, and an inability to reeeeach for the brake/shift levers when riding the drop-down part of my bars. Not only can I clearly see my front wheel's hub waaaay behind my handlebars, but if I use the trick of placing my elbow at the nose of my saddle, arm extended toward the stem, fingers extended.... my fingers reach only the handlebar riser.... coming NOWHERE near reaching the stem itself (should be within a cm +-).

    I have also learned that I might want to slide my controls up on the handlebars such that they marry nicely the top flat surface of my handlebars..... of which I will make parallel to the ground (this would be the Cyclocross placement at the end of my notes I posted).

    Before I do all this though, I need to replace my -too narrow- handlebars with bars that are of a better proportion to my shoulders (I'm a has-been swimmer/body builder with broad shoulders).

    I'm actually pretty excited about all this, as this will be my chance to (spend more money) replace my Specialized 155mm gel saddle (anybody wanna buy it?) with a Brooks B17S Imperial (w/it's central cut-out in a "shorter" ladies version), and gel padding on the top of my bars with some matching leather handlebar tape over it.

    Don't know how close I am to it, but I may also want to return those cages to my pedals, and have some shoes modified by a local cobbler with something stiff between my pedals and the soles of my feet.

  6. #6
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    You may be on the right track. I have the opposite problem--very narrow shoulders. I had my handlebars cut down as a result of a bike fit. It really helped a lot with wrist discomfort and even more so, with uncomfortable shoulders.

  7. #7
    Retired C.O. RandoneeRider's Avatar
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    goldfinch, Thanks...
    it's validating that you had luck with fitting to your shoulders.
    Amazing how all the know-it-alls/authorities/"trained personel"..... 'salesmen' would rather argue that the bike they have in stock is THE "perfect" fit.... or "...with very minor modification based on personal taste..."

    The guys at REI have been good for the most part, but choose first to look at me askance like I know absolutely NOTHING of what I speak.... and then concede (after consulting a manager) to help me in my endeavor.

  8. #8
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    RandoneeRider;12809364]As it turns out, my biggest complaint is wrist discomfort, straight arm strain taxing my triceps, uncomfortable hand position, and an inability to reeeeach for the brake/shift levers when riding the drop-down part of my bars.
    Ooooh yes! Definitely some adjustments are in order....


    I'm actually pretty excited about all this, as this will be my chance to (spend more money) replace my Specialized 155mm gel saddle (anybody wanna buy it?) with a Brooks B17S Imperial (w/it's central cut-out in a "shorter" ladies version), and gel padding on the top of my bars with some matching leather handlebar tape over it.
    It is great fun, isn't it!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    I love the smell of bicycle grease in the morning.
    I am not, associated, affiliated, nor in any way responsible for any of the creative and informative material, (and incredibly beautiful pictures) posted on the EcoVelo blog/website. (I chose my username before I was ever aware of the website).
    2010 Salsa Vaya, 2006 Cannondale Rush, 1992 Cannondale M1000, 1992 Trek 930, 1987 Bertoni Italimerica,
    1983 Centurion Accordo mixte

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